Get our free mobile app
Photo by Steve Meyer.
Photo by Steve Meyer.
loading...

In a Saturday win over Neptune on Jan. 22, Manalapan set itself up to make a run back at a .500 winning percentage, but it came at a cost.

A fight broke out in the middle of the fourth quarter and the fallout included losing standout senior forward Gabe Blackwell for two games, which would be against Long Branch and Christian Brothers Academy -- the latter of which is currently ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and was No. 2 at the time.

With Blackwell out, Manalapan handled its business against Long Branch, but CBA would be a different challenge. With Blackwell in the lineup, the Braves gave the Colts a scare at CBA, leading them at halftime before ultimately falling, 53-43.

In the second meeting, even shorthanded, Manalapan finished the job. Senior Mike Bimonte delivered the deciding three-point play and the Braves knocked off the Colts, 56-53, to get back to .500 and claim the latest Jersey Mike's Team of the Week honor.

Bimonte finished with a game-high 23 points in the CBA win, capped by his drive to the basket with 30 seconds left that broke a 53-53 tie and drew a foul to give him a shot at a three-point play, on which he cashed in. Senior teammate Mike Cerreto also stepped up with 21 points as the two senior guards carried the scoring load.

Cerreto also led Manalapan with 17 points in the 42-26 win earlier in the week.

Manalapan got Blackwell back in the starting lineup for its home gam vs. Freehold Township Monday and the Braves looked like a team that won't be letting up. With Cerreto again leading the way with his 24 points, Manalapan upended Freehold Township, 65-56, for its fourth straight win.

The Braves have three games remaining prior to the Shore Conference Tournament cutoff date and will need to beat at least one of three quality opponents to secure their spot. They will wrap up this week with Howell (9-5) and next week will take on No. 6 (and climbin) Rumson-Fair Haven (10-2) and a Middletown South squad that has played better than its 5-11 record suggests.

2022 Jersey Mike's Team of the Week Winners

Week 1: CBA

Week 2: Manasquan

Week 3: Red Bank Catholic

Week 4: Jackson Memorial